NO GEORGIAN DOLPHIN?

Frequent commenter Andrew Dunbar writes to say “All the Georgian dictionaries I could find only list one word [დელფინი, delphini] for ‘dolphin’, that coming ultimately from Greek. But why borrow this word when both dolphins and the Georgians have always been at the Black Sea and the Georgians were not big borrowers of basic words?” He also posted the question at Linguistics StackExchange. As I wrote him, I looked დელფინი up in my 1887 Chubinov Georgian-Russian dictionary, which also has Georgian definitions, and it had ზღვის ღორი ‘sea pig,’ so perhaps that’s an alternate name? Also, as the etymological source it gives “ბერძ.” (i.e., Greek); that doesn’t necessarily mean it was borrowed directly from Greek, however. (Russian itself borrowed it from German.) So I thought I’d post it here and see if anyone had any thoughts on the subject.

Comments

  1. the Georgians have always been at the Black Sea
    perhaps the clue could be found in the language of seaside Lazi? Because Iberia (~~ Kartli and Kakheti), where the literary Georgian emerged, was pretty much landlocked, and the shorelands of Colchis must have been a malarial swamp?
    BTW some dolphins are known as sea-pigs in Russian too, and for that matter in English (porpoises).

  2. Trond Engen says:

    Wasn’t the seafaring business in the Black Sea greek-speaking for a long time? As a possible double parallel, Scandinavian languages (there he goes again!) use hai for shark, a backloan from the Dutch loan of the native (ON) .

  3. Even if Georgian had always been spoken on the shores of the Black Sea, loans from a prestigious language can displace native words, and Greek certainly qualifies as a prestigious language in that part of the world. Is there anything about the form of this Greek loan which indicates how long ago the word entered Georgian, whether it came from popular or learned channels, or the like?
    A similar example of this sort of phenomenon involves Latin PISCIS “fish”, which was borrowed into both Albanian and Brythonic Celtic, in both instances eliminating whatever native form once existed.

  4. “Sea pig”? That sounds like direct translation from Chinese for the word “dolphin”? It is “海豚” in Chinese.

  5. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, yeah. No. marsvin “guineapig” is a calque of German Meerschwein(chen) “(little) sea pig”, which originally did mean “dolphin”. How’s that for seemanntic drift?

  6. Yes it seems many languages have one or more “sea pig”-type forms for either or both “dolphin” and “porpoise”.
    This is just what I can spot in Wiktionary:
    English: mereswine, sea hog, sea pig, seaswine
    Czech: sviňucha?
    French: marsouin
    Old English: mereswīn
    Old Norse: marsvīn
    Polish: morświn
    Proto-Germanic: *mariswīnan
    Romanian: marsuin
    Telugu: నీరుపంది
    Welsh: môr-hwch

  7. My (minimally informed) impression is that despite (some of) the Georgians living by the Black Sea, they have not tended to be a very marine-oriented people. Georgian cuisine makes relatively little use of seafood, even in the coastal west.
    The Japanese for “dolphin”, iruka, is written with characters meaning “sea pig” (海豚), the same as the Chinese hǎitún. (Googling, it appears that some Altaicists derive iruka from a root meaning “pig”, though others say it’s a loan from Ainu.)

  8. We discussed sea-pigs briefly four years ago.

  9. Andrew Dunbar: French MARSOUIN is a loan from Old Norse (where it replaced Old French PORPOIS, literally, “pig-fish” [and yes, POIS is the reflex of the same Latin word PISCIS I mentioned above], which is the source of English PORPOISE), and in turn I am almost certain Romanian MARSUIN is borrowed from French.
    If we only had the modern languages to work with and no knowledge of their history, I wonder if anyone would manage to disentangle the history of these words…

  10. Trond Engen says:

    Andrew Dunbar: Proto-Germanic: *mariswīnan
    I don’t think I buy that. Or, I buy the form, but I don’t think it can be safely assigned to PG. We’ve seen how easily the word is borrowed and calqued. Or (2), we can assign it to PG, as long as we keep in mind that PG is a projection, and that this word alone can’t be used to place Proto-Germanic society by the ses.
    Etienne: If we only had the modern languages to work with and no knowledge of their history, I wonder if anyone would manage to disentangle the history of these words…
    The French and English switch of words is confusing. I bet they did it on porpoise.

  11. So it seems “porpoise”/”dolphin” could well be related to “guinea pig” by way of loan-translation? Wiktionary doesn’t mention this in their “guinea pig” etymology but Wikipedia has a lot more to say.
    It’s true the fish I most commonly encountered on menus in Georgia was კალმახი (kalmakhi) “trout”, a river fish, even in Batumi.
    So not knowing a lot about large marine life in the Black sea let me have a look…
    “shark” ზვიგენი (zvigeni) – seems to be native Georgian, can’t spot similar words in nearby Black Sea languages, can’t identify morphemes
    “whale” ვეშაპი (vešapi) – from Armenian, cognate to Latin “sapor”.
    “bass”/”perch” ქორჭილა (k’orčila)
    “seal” სელაპი (selapi) – (are/were there seals in the Black Sea? Not easy to establish with Wikipedia and Google) – no clue other than the superficial სელ- (sel-) beginning. There’s also ზღვის მწავი (zḡvis mcavi) and ზღვის მწავის ბეწვი (zḡvis mcavis becvi). ზღვა is “sea”, ბეწვი is “fur”, but I can’t find მწავი anywhere.
    I don’t feel enlightened yet (-: …

  12. I’ve tried to look for some of these words in Laz and Abkhaz. I don’t know if they traditionally have or had more of a seafood diet than the Georgians.
    I also tried to find dictionaries for these languages in Georgia with no success )-:

  13. are/were there seals in the Black Sea?
    There are small numbers of monk seals remaining in the Mediterranean Sea. They at one time also inhabited the Black Sea. See here for details.

  14. Would Russian Морская свинка (which refers to the guinea pig) be from German? Mongolian calls guinea pigs усан гахай (water pig).

  15. Trond Engen says:

    Andrew Dunbar So it seems “porpoise”/”dolphin” could well be related to “guinea pig” by way of loan-translation?
    I think porpoise “pig-fish” and marsvin “sea-pig” are variations on a theme, but they’re not related to guineapig except by accidental mixup in German. Greek delphis is a completely different metaphor. Related to delphús “womb”, it could be a cognate of ‘calf’.

  16. Scandinavian languages use hai for shark, a backloan from the Dutch loan of the native (ON) há.
    Are (or were) there shark near Norway? You never hear about them.

  17. Trond Engen says:

    There are several species of sharks in Norwegian waters, and they all have names containing : Håkjerring, pigghå, håbrann and havmus (gullhå/hågylling).

  18. Trond Engen says:

    For pedantry: Not all but most of them have names containing . I forgot about brugde. And there are more species than I listed, a couple of small species living in the deep of the fjords and several larger pelagic species that come up here in the summer.

  19. Would Russian Морская свинка (which refers to the guinea pig) be from German?
    Apparently yes (and not be confused with морская свинья) … although folk etymology tries, rather improbably, to derive it from “zamorskaya” overseas instead. BTW водосвинка (literally “water piggy”) exists too, as a somewhat obsolete name for guinea pig’s larger relative, capybara (capybara does deserve its name because it’s a water animal)
    I also tried to find dictionaries for [Laz and Abkhaz] languages in Georgia with no success )-:
    No wonder, isn’t Georgia following in the footsteps of the Osmans and trying its best to deny that there is any linguistic diversity among its people? (the notions of Svan and Mingrelian aren’t popular there either, are they?)

  20. The Japanese for “dolphin”, iruka, is written with characters meaning “sea pig” (海豚), the same as the Chinese hǎitún.
    That’s not a very useful data point, though; they just borrowed the two-character spelling of the Chinese word and applied it their own existing word, which has no verifiable etymological connection with any words for the sea or for pigs (pace Starostin).

  21. That’s not a very useful data point, though

    I realize that… I started writing about the “sea pig” connection independently, beginning with the Japanese because that’s the word I’m familiar with, but Gpa brought up the Chinese before I posted, rendering that section less interesting than it might have been.

  22. Yes, I suspected that you might have left out an “as you know, Bob” there, but could not resist the opportunity for pedantry!
    That spelling 海豚 has proved very useful at our house, though. Our toddler loves the local aquarium so much that we occasionally need to use code words to discuss it in case he, suddenly reminded of its existence, decides that he wants to go there right now. So when necessary we talk about whether we’ll have time to go see the “umi-buta” tomorrow or not, etc.
    (Spelling out words in front of children doesn’t work so well when the language in question has a syllabary instead of an alphabet…)

  23. Well I’ve just found out thanks to Stephen G. Brown, one of our best conributors on Wiktionary, that the Georgian for “guinea pig” is literally “sea piglet”!
    ზღვის გოჭი (zḡvis goči)
    I think all this stuff I’m finding out about dolphins, guinea pigs, porpoises, seals and dogs or pigs of the sea to be at least as interesting as the missing Georgian lexical item that started this (-:

  24. Then there are the sea cows. Apparently the dugong has also been called sea camel (in some language). And the sea elephants. And the important distinction between sea horse and hippopotamus.
    In the next book of the Patrick O’Brien series, Hat will come across “poor Steller’s sea cow, or rather Steller’s poor sea cow”.

  25. O’Brian

  26. Trond Engen says:

    the important distinction between sea horse and hippopotamus
    In Norwegian these are sjøhest and flodhest, but the difficult one is havhest. Here’s the Norwegian children’s swimming distinction Havhesten.
    And here’s another example of how names move around. looks like a recent coinage, so I look down the list of Wikipedia languages for native-looking forms. The English name is fulmar, which is also used in French and Catalan. The Danish name is mallemuk, close to Frisian mallemok and Northern Frisian malmuk. Swedish, German, and Dutch have calques of another recent coinage, stormfugl “stormfowl”, which is used for the order Procellariiformes in Norwegian. I guess the Dutch is the original.
    I didn’t expect much from the English word, but, surprisingly, fulmar is from ON fúllmár “foul gull”. According to Wikipedia fúll “rot;uglyness” describes its stomach oil, but mightn’t it just be that it’s a really odd-looking sort of gull (which it isn’t)?. The final r makes it rare in keeping the nominative marker as a loan.
    The Danish/Frisian word could look like another -mok “gull”, but I don’t know what the first element might be.

  27. Trond Engen says:

    I don’t know what the first element might be
    Now I think I know. The Da./No. fishname malle “catfish” is from LG Mall. This was formed by assimilation of the final -n of the article and the initial w- of Wal(l) “whale”. So mallemok is “whalegull”.

  28. Trond Engen says:

    One day I’ll learn how to close my HTML tags.

  29. Now this is truly remarkable. “The Danish name is mallemuk, close to Frisian mallemok and Northern Frisian malmuk” rang a faint bell—wasn’t there a bird name much like that in the Patrick O’Brian reading last night? I grabbed our copy of The Thirteen Gun Salute and checked; sure enough, Maturin, thinking of the wondrous birds he is seeing in the South Atlantic, includes “birds to which the sailors gave the general name of mollymawks.” And looking up mollymawk in the OED, I find:

    mollymawk, n.

    The fulmar, Fulmarus glacialis. Also: any of several similar or related sea birds, esp. (chiefly Austral. and N.Z.) any of the smaller albatrosses of the genus Diomedea.

    And here’s the etymology:

    Ultimately < Dutch mallemok, malmok, mallemug, mallemuk (early 18th cent.; < mal foolish (see mally adj.) + mok seagull (of uncertain origin; perhaps compare German Mocke lump: see mogul n.2), probably so called because the birds were easily caught or killed and hence thought to be foolish), probably partly via German Mallemucke (1675 in the passage translated in quot. 1694; also in this text as Mallemucks, plural). Compare French malamoque (1699 or earlier), Swedish mallemucke (mid 18th cent.), Danish mallemuk, mallemukke.
    In forms in molly-, probably after Molly, pet-form of the female forename Mary (see molly n.1); in forms in mally-, probably after mally adj.; in form mallimot, perhaps after guillemot n.

    I don’t recall ever hearing about fulmars before. This is graduate-level synchronicity.
    One day I’ll learn how to close my HTML tags.
    Fixed.

  30. Trond: Is there any possibility the the ‘foul’ element in the ON word refers to weather? Consider that other modern Germanic languages are saying ‘stormfowl’. And also consider that gulls (and many other birds) love to play in strong winds.

  31. Trond Engen says:

    Hat (channeling OED): mollymawk, n. [...] Ultimately &lt Dutch mallemok, malmok, mallemug, mallemuk (early 18th cent.;
    Dutch is always plausible for nautical words.
    < mal foolish (see mally adj.)
    Maybe fulmar and mallemok are calques, with another sense of fúll, “bad”. I still like my “whale” suggestion, though. As pelagic birds, they would follow the shoals of fish, and fishermen and whalers could have used them to seek out their catch.
    + mok seagull (of uncertain origin; perhaps compare German Mocke lump: see mogul n.2), probably so called because the birds were easily caught or killed and hence thought to be foolish)
    I don’t believe a word of that. má-/mó- may be onomatopoetic in origin, but it’s well established within Germanic, with both már and the (diminutive/familar?) derivation mási attested in ON. In Modern Norwegian måse is the rural/northern/western word, while måke is urban/southern/eastern, with both dialectal pronunciations and the regular correspondence to Danish måge pointing to ON *máki. (My modern dictionary quotes ON máki, but it’s not in my ON dictionary, so I assume it’s reconstructed. The form is as one would expect, anyway.)
    We touched these má- “gull” words a few months ago, in the just reopened thread “Old Soviet Books”, no less, and marie-lucie told that it’s found in Norman French.
    iakon: Is there any possibility the the ‘foul’ element in the ON word refers to weather?
    I can’t think of any word that may fit.

  32. Trond Engen says:

    I mean, mouette is standard French, but marie-lucie told us that the word entered French from Germanic through Norman dialects.

  33. Trond Engen says:

    There’s also flodsvin “(lit.)river pig = capybara”. This put me in thoughts of the bold and famous expedition on the Elvegris, named after the almost as bold and famous expedition on the Tigris. And would you believe, googling for that canoe, I found both a porpoise and a pig called elvegris.

  34. Norwegian Ti gris = “ten pig(s)”, haha. I must tell my wife.
    Julia has seen actual capybaras in the wild, in Argentina.

  35. Trond Engen says:

    When you do, your wife will tell you about Elvegris (~11-gris). She must have watched the 1979 TV series too.

  36. Andrew Dunbar:

    I can’t find მწავი anywhere.

    Well, it’s not in the sources of translate.ge, or Tschenkéli’s Wörterbuch, and I can’t make any sense of this, but this seems to say it’s the same as წავი “otter”. (One of the few Georgian words I actually know, & I wondered if it might be related.)

    I’ve tried to look for some of these words in Laz and Abkhaz.

    I managed to find a scan somewhere of Kh. S. Bgazhba’s 1964 Русско-Абхазский Словарь. (I have no idea how representative this is of either current or historical Abkhaz usage. Also the scanned text is quite hard to read, and I don’t know either language.) I found no entry for дельфин. I looked up “whale”, “seal”, and “shark” and got: кит = акит; тюлень = атиулен (амшын ҧстәы); акула = акула. So it looks to me like all three are Russian loans (амшын ҧстәы means “sea animal”).

  37. Someone may have posted this earlier, but if not, I think this community might find it interesting: The Book Haven has put up two actual videos of Tolstoy.
    Blew my mind.

  38. Fulmars are foul because as a defensive mechanism they can regurgitate at will, forcefully ejecting a stream of the fishy, foul oil (which is actually calorie-rich food, which they feed their young and on which they sustain themselves in their long flights). The oil clings and the stench is penetrating and long-lasting; if sprayed by a fulmar, the best option may be to burn one’s clothing.
    The Macronectes, Southern Giant Petrel and Northern Giant Petrel, have also been called fulmars for the same habit. Whalers called them “stinkers.” Today Fulmar is used for the Northern Fulmar and Southern Fulmar, which are smaller than the giant petrels, but which have the same spitting defense. (All the Procellaridae might have it, I’m not sure.)

  39. Trond Engen says:

    Tkanks, E. It’s clearly foul enough for its name.

  40. Speaking of capybaras and the O’Brian oeuvre, there’s this word “capabar”, meaning basically stealing from the Navy.

  41. And in Turkish, dolphin is yunus, literally the Fish of Jonas? We’ve just discussed this Leviathan / Mega Kethos a few months ago in this LH thread

  42. Empty: Alas, the OED and Etymonline don’t have the word. A wordorigins.org thread (to which Hat contributed) suggests German kaperbar ‘seizable’ < kapern ‘seize’ < Dutch kaper ‘one who seizes’ < kapen ‘seize’. If it were directly from Dutch it would be kaapbar.

  43. Trond Engen says:

    Since the origin of Dutch kapen is Lat. capere “seize” (a cognate of ‘have’), I wondered why German kapern with -r- had to be derived from Dutch kapen without -r-, but I guess the answer is that a direct loan in German would be *kapieren.

Speak Your Mind

*